See Muskmelon; see also Watermelon
Don't harvest lettuce until you're ready to use it. It can be stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator, and everyone has a favorite way of keeping it crisp. Some suggest washing the lettuce first, then wrapping it in a cotton or linen towel and keeping it in the refrigerator. Others suggest storing the whole lettuce in a plastic bag. You can't freeze, dry, or can lettuce, but you can sprout lettuce seeds. If you've got lots, share your bounty with friends. Detailed information on short-term storage is given in Part 3.
Common name: mushroom Botanical name: Agaricus species
Origin: Mushrooms are found all over the world.
Although there are many varieties of edible mushrooms, only a few are available for home production; grow the varieties that are available commercially.
Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a fungus organism, and there are between 60,000 and 100,000 species of fungus that produce mushrooms. Because many mushrooms are poisonous, and it's extremely difficult to tell the edible variety from the poisonous kind, gathering wild mushrooms to eat is a very risky pastime. There are, however, many good books on the market that will help you recognize some of the 50 or more edible varieties that grow wild in the United States; so if you do want to go mushroom-hunting, do a little homework first. You can also grow mushrooms at home from prepared trays, kits, and spawn that are available commercially through seed catalog companies and garden suppliers. It's not too difficult, and it can be both productive and fun.
Because you're growing them indoors, the type of climate you live in is a matter of indifference to your mushrooms. You can also grow them at any time of the year, but the trays or kits are usually available commercially only from October through April.
Mushrooms grow best in a dark, humid, cool area. In most homes the best places are the basement and the cabinet under the kitchen sink. A little light won't hurt the mushrooms, but they do need high humidity — 80 to 85 percent — and a cool temperature —55° to 60°F.
Mushrooms for growing at home are available in two different forms — in kits or as spawn. You can buy prepared trays and kits already filled with the growing medium and the mushroom spores. All you have to do is remove the tray from the package, add an inch of topsoil, and water. Keep them in a dark, humid, cool place, and you should be harvesting mushrooms within about four weeks.
Many seed companies also sell mushroom spawn; growing from spawn is less expensive, but it does require a little more care. Plant half-inch pieces of the spawn about two inches deep and eight to 10 inches apart in a well-rotted strawy horse or cow manure. Keep the planted spawn in a dark, humid room with the temperature at about 70°F for the first 21 days; then lower the temperature to about 60°F and cover the bed with a one-inch layer of good, sterilized topsoil. If the conditions are right, you should be able to start harvesting in about four weeks.
Fertilizing and watering
You don't need to fertilize mushrooms.
Keep them moist; don't let the mushrooms dry out, but don't allow water to stand on the soil.
Pests present no serious problems when you're growing mushrooms at home.
Mushrooms grown at home have no serious disease problems.
Whether you're growing mushrooms from a kit or from spawn, you'll wait about four weeks for results. You can harvest the mushrooms as immature buttons, before the caps open, or when the cap is fully open and the gills exposed — at this stage the mushrooms are ripe and their flavor is at its highest level. Never pull the mushrooms out of the soil; cut them off at soil level with a sharp knife. Check and harvest your mushrooms every day; if you leave mature mushrooms in the planting bed your yield will be lower, but if you pick them regularly the bed will produce continuously for as long as six months.
Mushrooms can be stored in the refrigerator up to one week. You can also freeze, can, or dry them. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Fresh mushrooms are wonderful raw, sliced thinly and eaten alone or tossed in a green salad. Simmer them in red wine and tomatoes with parsley and herbs for a delicious vegetarian supper dish. Stuff them with herbed breadcrumbs and broil them, or saute them lightly and toss them in with a dish of plain vegetables — try them with zucchini. Use mushrooms in your stir-fry Oriental dishes; the quick cooking preserves their flavor and texture. You can also fold them into an omelette topped with sherry sauce for an elegant lunch dish.
Common names: muskmelon, cantaloupe, cantaloup Botanical name: Cucumis melo Origin: South Asia, tropical Africa
Muskmelons are very dependent on climate and growing conditions. Check with your garden center or local extension office for the varieties that grow best in your area.
The muskmelon is a long, trailing annual that belongs to the cucumber and watermelon family. The netted melon or muskmelon is usually called a cantaloupe, but it should not be confused with the real cantaloupe, which is a warty or rock melon. The word cantaloupe means "song of the wolf" and was the name of an Italian castle. In 1885, when William S. Ross brought two barrels of muskmelons into the South Water Market in Chicago, everyone laughed at the little melons. Ross, however, laughed all the way to the bank. The U.S. Department of Agriculture spells it cantaloup, without the final "e."
Another type of melon you may like to try in your garden is the honeydew. It's sometimes referred to as a winter melon, but again the name is inaccurate — the true winter melon is a Chinese vegetable. Honeydews have a smoother surface than muskmelons, and lack their distinctive odor. They also ripen later and require a longer growing season, which means that they will not ripen fully in short-season areas. Your Cooperative Extension Service will advise you on growing honeydews in your area. The following growing information for muskmelons applies also to honeydews.
Muskmelon is a tender, warm-weather plant that will not tolerate even the slightest frost. It also has a long growing season, which means that you must be careful to select a variety suited to your area's climate. In cool areas you'll do better with small-fruited varieties; in warmer areas, where you can accommodate their need for a longer season, you can grow the large varieties. In cool areas grow muskmelons from transplants, using individual, plantable containers at least four inches in diameter so that the root systems are not disturbed when you plant them. Set the plants in the garden when the ground is thoroughly warm, two to three weeks after your average date of last frost.
Muskmelons must have full sun and thrive in well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. When you're preparing the soil, dig in a complete, well-balanced fertilizer at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet or 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Grow muskmelons in inverted hills spaced four to six feet apart. If you're planting from seed, plant six to eight seeds in each hill; when
the seedlings have developed three or four true leaves, thin them to leave the strongest two or three seedlings In each hill. Cut the thinned seedlings with scissors at soil level to avoid damaging the survivors' root systems. Where cucumber beetles, other insects, or weather are a problem, wait a bit before making the final selection. If you're using transplants, put two or three in each hill.
Fertilize before planting and again at midseason, at the same rate as the rest of the garden. Detailed information on fertilizing is given in "Spadework: The Essential Soil" in Parti.
Muskmelons need a lot of water while the vines are growing. Be generous with water until the melons are mature, then stop watering while the fruit ripens.
To keep competitive plants weeded out, cultivate carefully until the vines cover the ground. The roots are very shallow and extend quite a distance, so proceed with caution. You can grow muskmelons three feet apart on fences instead of in Inverted hills. As the fruits develop, they may need support if you're growing them on a fence. A net or bag will do the job — try using old pantyhose. If the muskmelons are growing in a hill, put a board under each melon to keep it off the ground.
Aphids and cucumber beetles are the pests you're most likely to encounter. To control aphids.
Musk me! on seedling
Musk me! on seedling pinch out infested vegetation, hose them off the vines, or spray the aphids with Malathion or Diazinon. Cucumber beetles may not do much feeding damage, but they carry cucumber bacterial wilt. Hand-pick them off the vines promptly, or spray them with carbaryl. Detailed information on pest control is given in "Keeping Your Garden Healthy" in Parti.
Muskmelon vines are susceptible to wilt, blight, mildew, and root rot. Planting disease-resistant varieties when possible and maintaining the general cleanliness and health of your garden will help cut down the incidence of disease. If a plant does become infected, remove and destroy it before it can spread disease to healthy plants. Detailed information on disease prevention is given in "Keeping Your Garden Healthy" in Parti.
Time from planting to harvest is 60 to 110 days, depending on type, and in a good season you might get 10 melons from a 10-foot row. Leave melons on the vine until they're ripe; there is no increase in sugar after harvesting. Mature melons slip easily off the stem; a half-ripe melon needs more pressure to remove than a ripe melon, and often comes off with half the stem attached.
You can store muskmelons up to one week in the refrigerator or, if you have a lot, for two to three weeks in a cool, moist place. You can also freeze your extras or make pickles with them. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Muskmelon or honeydew is delicious by itself. A squeeze of lemon or lime juice brings out the flavor nicely. Or fill the halves with fruit salad, yogurt, or ice cream. You can also scoop out the flesh with a melon-baller, and freeze the balls for future use. Mix balls or chunks of different types of melon for a cool dessert. Serve wedges of honeydew with thinly sliced prosciutto as an appetizer.
Common names: mustard, Chinese mustard, leaf mustard, spinach greens Botanical name: Brassica juncea Origin: Asia
Tendergreen (spinach mustard, 30 days); Green Wave (45 days); Southern Giant Curled (40 days).
Mustard is a hardy annual with a rosette of large light or dark green
crinkled leaves that grow up to three feet in length. The leaves and leaf stalks are eaten. The seeds can be ground and used as a condiment. If you had lived in ancient Rome, you would have eaten mustard to cure your lethargy and any pains you suffered.
Mustard is a cool-season crop; it's hardy, but the seeds will not germinate well if you sow them too early, so plant seeds in the garden on your average date of last frost. Mustard is grown like lettuce; it is more heat-tolerant than lettuce, but long hot summer days will force the plants to bolt and go to seed. As mustard has a very short growing season, most areas of the United States can accommodate it without any problems.
Mustard tolerates partial shade and needs well-worked soil, high in organic matter, with good drainage and moisture retention. When you're preparing the soil, dig in a complete, well-balanced fertilizer at the rate of one pound per 100 square feet or 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Plant the seeds half an inch deep in rows 12 to 24 inches apart, and when the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them to stand six to 12 inches apart. Transplant the thinned seedlings, or eat them in soups or as greens. For a continuous harvest, plant a few seeds at intervals, rather than an entire row at one time. As soon as the plants start to go to seed, pull them up or they will produce a great number of seeds and sow themselves all over the garden. Plant mustard again when the weather begins to cool off.
Fertilize before planting and again at midseason, at the same rate as the rest of the garden. Detailed information on fertilizing is given in "Spadework: The Essential Soil" in Part 1.
Water mustard before the soil dries out to keep the leaves growing quickly.
Mustard is almost always attacked by some pest or other and is more susceptible than other crops to attack by flea beetles and aphids. Hand-pick or hose these pests off the plant, or pinch out aphid-infested foliage. Or use a chemical spray of Malathion or Diazinon. Because of its pest problems, mustard is not the ideal crop for the organic gardener. Detailed information on pest control is given in "Keeping Your Garden Healthy" in Part 1.
Mustard has no serious disease problems.
Pick off individual leaves as they grow, or cut the entire plant. Harvest when the leaves are young and tender; in summer the leaf texture may become tough and the flavor strong. Harvest the whole crop when some of the plants start to go to seed.
storing and preserving
You can store mustard in the refrigerator for up to one week, or you can freeze, can, or dry your excess crop; use the recipes for greens. You can also sprout mustard seeds. Detailed information on storing and preserving is given in Part 3.
Use young, tender leaves of mustard in a salad, alone or mixed with other greens. Boil the older leaves quickly in just the water that clings to them after washing; dress them with a little olive oil and vinegar, or add some crumbled bacon. Substitute mustard greens for spinach in an omelette or frittata.
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